Ford builds robot which tests car seats and other news

BBC Click's Nick Kwek looks at some of the best of the week's technology news stories, including:

  • WhatsApp releases a Delete For Everyone function allowing users to retract comments after they have been sent
  • Ford develops a robot which tests car seats by sitting in them
  • Sony announces it will bring back its famous robot pet dog, Aibo

See more at Click's website and @BBCClick.

Spreading the word

Nosh Detox founder Geeta Sidhu-RobbImage copyright Gemma Day
Image caption Nosh Detox founder Geeta Sidhu-Robb used bloggers to help promote her brand

Online businesses now have a wealth of digital tools and techniques at their disposal to help them get noticed in the global marketplace.

Geeta Sidhu-Robb, founder of juice and health food delivery service, Nosh Detox, was using social media to promote her business long before it became fashionable to do so.

Ten years ago, in fact.

On a tight budget and needing to convince a sceptical public, she tapped in to the power and reach of bloggers to promote her diet and wellbeing products.

"Juice fasts didn't really exist in the UK at the time," recalls the former corporate lawyer and single mum of three. "In fact some people actually thought a detox could kill you."

"We couldn't afford PR [public relations] agencies or expensive advertising campaigns, so we'd talk to pretty much anyone with an online presence and persuade them to take photos, film us on YouTube and write about us," she says.

The bloggers would include a link to her website on their pages - occasionally in return for some Nosh Detox freebies Ms Sidhu-Robb admits. This helped push the business to the top of organic - not paid-for - search rankings.

A £2m turnover and Hollywood A-list clientele followed, along with significant followings in Russia and Australia.

It shows how, on social media, a little can go a very long way when it comes brand promotion.

Image copyright EyeFitU
Image caption Isabelle Ohnemus is a big believer in finding the right social media "influencer" for your brand

Now social media marketing is a business in its own right. Convenient and low cost, with a potentially vast audience reach, the platforms have overtaken all other media for small businesses, says research firm BIA Kelsey.

Former investment banker Isabelle Ohnemus has extensively used "influencers" to promote her Zurich-based fashion company EyeFitU, which is an online platform aimed at remedying some of the sizing inconsistencies across fashion brands.

Usually young, fashion-conscious females with a prominent online presence act as "brand ambassadors" for EyeFitU, promoting the company to their followers on Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook.

Big brands will sometimes pay in excess of $30,000 (£23,000) to such influencers for a single post, but smaller companies with more modest budgets can still get in on the action.

"There is a trend for going with smaller-scale bloggers rather than those with million-plus followers," says Ms Ohnemus,.

"Having those kinds of numbers doesn't necessarily mean a higher number of conversions."

In other words, it's the quality of the following not the size that matters. People who trust an influencer's opinion are more likely to buy the brand's goods, she says.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Reality TV star Marnie Simpson fell foul of the Advertising Standards Authority

Of course, there are rules governing this sort of social media influencer marketing, so you have to be careful.

Geordie Shore TV star Marnie Simpson recently got into trouble for uploading images of products from two firms she had business relationships with, without identifying them as adverts

A spokeswoman for the UK's Advertising Standards Authority tells the BBC: "Our current codes state that if an advertiser gives payment to a social media influencer - this can be in the form of a monetary payment or a freebie - and there is control over the contents of the ad, the social media post would be considered an ad; thus the influencer must clearly indicate somewhere on the post that this is an advertisement."

Know your customer

One of the main advantages of an online business compared to a traditional bricks-and-mortar shop is the amount of data you can gather about your customers.

You can find out which search words people use to find your business, for example, which images they respond to the most, and which website content they share on other platforms.

This all helps to refine and target your marketing efforts.

Free monitoring tools, like BuzzSumo and Metrixapp, not to mention Google Analytics, are all powerful helpers for the small business.

Image copyright Gourmet Meat Club
Image caption Gourmet Meat Club found that images of cooked food were more popular than raw ingredients

Vikas Shah, visiting professor of entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management, says: "You can easily start by using many free SEO [search engine optimisation] tools on platforms like Google and Twitter, and because this activity is very much results driven, you will see a fairly robust relationship between spend and return on investment."

Gourmet Meat Club, an online provider of free range British meat, is one of the 54% of websites globally using Google Analytics to delve into customer quirks.

Recent insights reveal that Android mobile users visit more web pages than those on an Apple phone, and images of cooked food generate more views in a digital ad campaign than images of raw ingredients.

Furthermore, the technology tracks the most popular food searches online, giving Gourmet Meat Club the opportunity to create content based on the very latest trends.

More Technology of Business

Image copyright Getty Images

"It's crucial to act fast," says Stuart Cordingley, the firm's managing director, "jumping onto popular searches as soon as they emerge to get ahead of the competition and be present where the public is discussing its new favourite food topics."

This is the best way for the brand to get "ample exposure", he says. Data is now "central to the marketing mix".

This up-to-the-minute content is sent to journalists and shared on the firm's own Facebook and Twitter pages.

Social media marketing expert Andy Barr says it is an example of how online businesses are increasingly morphing into social media communities, creating content that positions them as authorities on particular topics.

But he also advises supplementing this approach with social media advertising.

"As a general rule of thumb, it's worth spending between 7-12% of your total monthly revenue or income on social media promotion for the best results," he says.

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Verso Group data hoarder fined by UK watchdog

Phone callImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The ICO said that Verso had helped fuel the nuisance call industry

A company that specialises in asking the public to take part in "surveys" in which the answers are then used to target respondents with unsolicited marketing calls has been fined.

An investigation found Verso Group had not been clear about what it was doing.

The Hertfordshire-based company came to regulators' attention after it was involved in one campaign that resulted in 46 million "nuisance calls" about payment protection insurance (PPI).

It has been ordered to pay £80,000.

The Information Commissioner's Office said it was the first such penalty following a wider investigation into the so-called data broking industry.

"This type of unlawful data directly fuels the nuisance call and spam text industry and creates misery for millions of UK citizens," said the ICO's deputy commissioner, James Dipple-Johnstone.

"Businesses need to understand they don't own personal data - people do."

Although the ICO has the power to issue fines of up to £500,000, the sum is still likely to be significant to Verso.

According to accounts filed in May, the Hertfordshire-based company's net assets totalled just £12,386.

A spokesman for Verso declined to comment.

Personal details

Verso has been in business since 2011 and describes itself as the "largest lead-generation business in the UK by some distance".

According to its website, it uses call centres in India, the Philippines and North America to carry out surveys with the public, with the stated aim of helping consumers cut their utility bills.

These are branded as being carried out by the UK Savers Club and I Love My Offers among other names. Verso says it carries out more than 115,000 such surveys each month.

The business then offers other companies the ability to target consumers via email, phone, postal mail and text, based on the lifestyle, financial and demographic information gathered from respondents.

In addition to PPI insurance, Verso says its clients have used the information to sell loans, legal advice about accidents, extended warranties and beauty products.

Two of the companies Verso has sold data to - Pro Dial and Emacs - have previously been fined by the ICO over the way they had conducted their cold-call businesses.

A follow-up investigation into Verso concluded it was not providing survey respondents with specific enough information about to whom it planned to pass their data, and thus had failed to obtain the necessary consent to sell it on.

Moreover, the ICO said it had found Verso to be "unhelpful and obstructive" when it had tried to look into the matter.

"Verso's contraventions were systemic - they were not isolated, one-off or occasional errors," the report said, "[and] were of a kind likely to cause substantial damage or substantial distress."

The watchdog has ordered Verso to pay the fine by mid-November, although it could also try to appeal against the ruling.

Citizens' rights over their personal information are set to be strengthened next year under the UK's Data Protection Bill.

The law - which implements the EU's General Data Protection Regulation - makes it possible for a person to oblige a company to delete information held about them.

It also raises the cap on the size of penalties the ICO can demand.

Art galleries targeted by cyber-thieves

Woman in an art galleryImage copyright Getty Images

Cyber-criminals appear to be targeting art galleries and dealers with an email scam that has already fooled some organisations.

The attackers broke into art dealer email accounts and sent buyers duplicated invoices with the bank account details changed.

Several galleries in London and the US that had been affected were identified by the Art Newspaper.

Art dealer groups have warned people to be vigilant.

The scammers monitored outgoing messages from art gallery email accounts, then intercepted invoices and changed them.

The Rosenfeld Porcini gallery in London was one of the organisations that fell victim to the scam after agreeing the sale of an artwork.

"Around seven or eight hours after we had sent our invoice, the buyers got another email saying that the invoice we had sent out was in the wrong currency and that they should make payment to a different account," Mr Rosenfeld told the Art Newspaper.

The gallery is in discussions with the bank to try to recover the money.

Two-step verification

Another gallery told the newspaper that some dealers had been scammed out of "hundreds of thousands of pounds".

The Simon Lee gallery said it now sends cyber-fraud warnings with its invoices and speaks to clients on the telephone to confirm every transaction.

Enabling two-factor authentication - also known as two-step verification - on email accounts can also make it harder for criminals to break in.

The Society of London Art Dealers has previously warned its members about the dangers of email fraud.

"We are indeed very concerned about this problem," the Director General Christopher Battiscombe said.

"As all of us are compelled to do more and more of our business online, it seems to me inevitable that criminals will focus increasingly in this area and we all need to think about the risks involved and whether we are doing enough to protect ourselves against them."

The group said it had distributed a cyber-security presentation to its members.

Trove of ‘Russian troll’ posts exposed by Congress

Russia-linked Facebook postsImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Senators have opted to release some, but not all, examples of the posts thought to have been posted by Russia-backed trolls

Further instances of social media posts and ads thought to be part of Russian propaganda efforts to influence the last US presidential election and divide its society have been shared with the public.

The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the imagery following a hearing at which Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were criticised for having underestimated the problem.

The examples are a fraction of the number of posts that have been flagged as being suspicious by the tech companies themselves.

Other cases had been displayed on Capitol Hill earlier in the week.

In addition, the senators released data about how much had been spent promoting the material and how many people had been shown it. They have also provided a long list of Russia-linked Twitter accounts that have now been suspended.

Image copyright US Congress
Image caption A total of 14,706 roubles ($253; £191) was spent to promote this advert to Facebook users in New York - it was shown to 15,255 people
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This ad was targeted at people who had shown interest in Christianity, the Bible and/or Andrew Breitbart, the founder of the Breitbart news site
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This post attracted 13,182 likes and 4,306 shares
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This post was liked 12,978 times and commented upon 1,032 times
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This image was uploaded in January 2017 and was shared 235,329 times
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This post was shared 55,812 times and attracted 1,477 comments
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption A total of 53,425 roubles ($818; £694) was spent promoting this page - it was shown to 201,428 users and was clicked on 12,127 times
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This post was uploaded in October 2016 and was shared 29,328 times
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This ad had 48,306 roubles ($830; £628) spent on it and was targeted at gun owners. It was shown to 301,608 people
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This ad was run in two separate campaigns and had 160,315 roubles ($2,752 £2,080) spent on its promotion, which generated 20,286 clicks
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This advert was targeted at US-based Facebook users that had shown an interest in being patriotic
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption Paid promotion of this advert caused it to be seen by 100,031 users
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This advert was promoted to US-based users that had shown interest in the Muslim scholars Zaid Shakir and Abu Eesa Niamatullah
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption A total of 3,981 roubles ($68; £52) was spent to promote this ad
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption A total of 14,607 roubles ($251; £190)was spent promoting this petition, which resulted in 6,276 clicks
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This ad was targeted at friends of people who had already liked the same account
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This promotion of an anti-bigotry rally was shown to 4,798 people and was clicked 240 times
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption Only six roubles (10 cents; 8p) was spent advertising this post that was shown to 11 people as a result
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This Instagram advert - whose image was redacted - invited Americans to share pictures and videos of their children supporting President Trump in April 2016
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption A total of 17,307 roubles ($297; £225) was spent promoting this ad to Instagram users, and was shown to 108,433 users
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This post was promoted to Texas-based users who had shown an interest in independence and/or patriotism
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This video was promoted to African Americans but instructed to exclude Hispanics and Asian Americans
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This post was promoted to Tea Party supporters and gun owners among others, and was clicked on 85 times
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption A total of 500 roubles ($8.58; £6.50) was spent promoting this ad to Bernie Sanders supporters, which led it to be shown to 1,938 users
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This ad, which described Hillary Clinton as Hitlery, was shown to 16,168 users
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This ad - which referred to Clinton as Killary - was targeted at military veterans of the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This anti-Trump ad ran between September and December 2016, but only had 113 roubles ($1.94; £1.47) spent on its promotion
Image copyright US Congress
Image caption This ad was targeted at users who had shown an interest in the black rights activists Martin Luther King and Malcolm X

SEC warns famous crypto-currency backers

Floyd MayweatherImage copyright Ethan Miller
Image caption Public figures such as Floyd Mayweather have backed new crypto-coin projects

Celebrities, sports figures and social media stars have been warned by US regulators about endorsing crypto-currencies.

Paris Hilton, boxer Floyd Mayweather and others have all publicly backed digital currency funding drives.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said the endorsements could break laws on selling securities.

Those promoting crypto-currencies must say if they are being paid for the endorsement, it said.

Cash caution

In its official warning, the SEC pointed to the growing numbers of public figures who have talked about the funding drives, known as Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), that crypto-currencies run to raise cash.

About 270 separate crypto-cash start-ups have sought funds via ICOs in 2017, said the New York Times. In total, the ICOs have raised more than $3bn (£2.27bn), it said.

The SEC said any virtual coins or tokens bought by investors through an ICO were subject to the same laws governing the sale of stocks and shares sold via mainstream stock markets.

These laws require anyone backing a security to disclose their relationship with the company offering the investment opportunity.

"A failure to disclose this information is a violation of the anti-touting provisions of the federal securities laws," it said, adding that keeping quiet about any financial arrangement could be considered fraudulent.

It said it was keeping an eye on people who promote the crypto-currencies to ensure laws were not broken.

In a separate but related bulletin, the SEC cautioned against following the investment advice of any public figure.

"It is never a good idea to make an investment decision just because someone famous says a product or service is a good investment," it said.

It encouraged investors to do their own research into potential money-making schemes and not rely on paid endorsements, it said.

Regulators in Switzerland, Britain and Malaysia have also issued warnings about the risks associated with ICOs. Financial watchdogs in China and South Korea have gone further and banned them altogether.

Bin Laden raid: Son Hamza’s wedding video in CIA file release

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionOnly childhood videos of Hamza bin Laden had been seen before this wedding footage

Osama Bin Laden's personal diary, video of his son Hamza's wedding and documentaries about himself were among files found on the al-Qaeda leader's computer, the CIA has revealed.

Nearly half a million of the files have been released, the fourth such tranche.

Bin Laden's computer was taken during the 2011 US raid in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad in which he died.

Some contents are being withheld over security or because they are corrupted or pornographic, the CIA said.

CIA director Mike Pompeo said the release included 18,000 documents, 79,000 audio files and images and more than 10,000 videos which shed light on the "plans and workings of this terrorist organisation".

What do we learn about Bin Laden's son Hamza?

The videos include a clip from the wedding of his son Hamza - thought to be his favourite son. Hamza has been mooted as a future al-Qaeda leader. Analysis of objects shown in the video suggest it was filmed in Iran. Previously only childhood videos of Hamza had been publicly seen.

Bin Laden himself is not seen in the video but one of the wedding attendees says that the "father of the groom, the prince of the mujahideen" is joyous at his son's marriage and his joy will "spread to all the mujahideen", AP said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Osama Bin Laden was killed during a raid by US special forces

Other senior al-Qaeda figures can also be seen in the footage, according to analysts from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) who have been studying the newly released files. The militants include Mohammed Islambouli, the brother of the man who killed Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat in 1981, the FDD says.

In recent years al-Qaeda has released audio messages from Hamza Bin Laden threatening the US, calling for the Saudi government to be overthrown and encouraging jihadist action in Syria.

An image of him as a boy was superimposed onto a picture of the New York World Trade Center on the recent anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

What was in Bin Laden's video collection?

The al-Qaeda leader had a series of animated films on his hard drive including Antz, Cars, Chicken Little and The Three Musketeers.

There were also several YouTube videos, including a viral clip from the UK called "Charlie bit my finger" and videos about crocheting, including one entitled "How to crochet a flower". The role-playing computer game Final Fantasy VII was also on the computer.

Bin Laden also had copies of three documentaries about him, including one called Where in the World is Osama bin Laden, as well as National Geographic documentaries including Kung Fu Killers, Inside the Green Berets and World's Worst Venom, AP reported.

The al-Qaeda leader lived in the walled compound with several members of his family. Three other men - one of Bin Laden's sons and two couriers - and a woman were also killed in the raid.

What do the other documents show?

The 228 pages of Bin Laden's handwritten notes cover an array of topics, including the 2011 Arab uprisings, which Bin Laden did not see coming, the FDD says.

The documents also show that Bin Laden was still in charge of al-Qaeda up until his death and was in regular communication with subordinates around the world.

He spent time trying to understand US strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq and had parts of the investigative journalist Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars translated for him.

Another document written by a senior militant examines al-Qaeda's relationship with Iran, according to the FDD analysts, saying that despite disagreements their "interests intersect", particularly because they are both "enemies of America".

Last year the US state department said Iran had since at least 2009 enabled al-Qaeda to move funds and fighters through the country to South Asia and Syria.

The CIA said the released documents also gave an insight into ideological differences between Bin Laden's al-Qaeda and the more recently formed so-called Islamic State (IS) group, as well as disagreements within al-Qaeda itself over tactics.


Previous releases of Bin Laden documents:

Image copyright AFP